Finding the right activities

Parents should enable young children to explore a range of physical activity opportunities to increase self-esteem, explore their strengths and talents, and develop their capacity for learning.

Different activities require different combinations of skills. Ball games like tennis emphasise hand-eye coordination, while activities like martial arts or skating emphasise balance and body awareness. As a parent, it’s important you encourage your child to try activities that suit your child’s individual strengths.

Provide the continued support children need to become self-assured and happy with the activities they enjoy. Offer positive reinforcement for the activities your child does, and encourage them as they express interest in new activities. If you push them to try a sport or activity they don’t like, they may associate activity with negative feelings.

  • TOP TIP: If your child isn’t sporty, there are still ways or working activities in with what they do like. For example, if they’re a keen bookworm, walk or cycle with them to the local library. You could walk with them to the local shops or walk them to a park or friend’s house to draw and paint.

Setting boundaries for behaviour

Physical activity and sport are proven to help children learn to explore, express and tackle their emotions and feelings, like boredom or aggression, and start to build attributes like motivation, self-drive, and confidence. Joining other youngsters in the playground, club or activity group, can help children develop the disciplines of socialising, communicating and building teamwork skills.

  • TOP TIP: Walk and talk – instead of sitting at the table to do homework, take a walk with your child while practising spelling, arithmetic or facts. Encourage responsibility and home maintenance skills by having your children help to hoover, mop floors, walk the dog, wash the car and make it fun by doing it together.

Spending time with your children

Finding time to spend together as a family can be difficult, so it is important parents make time for the entire family to participate in regular physical activities that everyone enjoys. It’s a real opportunity for parents to enjoy spending time with their children doing a variety of things, like walking, bicycling or skating.

Fixed routines are important for children, so try to arrange certain times each week when they can definitely take part in physical activity, and join in wherever possible. Children like to have special days reserved for special activities. For example, Monday night for a kick-about in the park with Dad, Wednesday night at the swimming club, Friday night for a bike ride with Mum.

  • TOP TIP: Take your children on regular active family adventures like hiking, canoeing, cycling or berry-picking. Discover parks and castles, visit the zoo and explore outdoor tourist attractions. Plan a special family fitness holiday like swimming at the beach, cycling a scenic trail, camping or ski trips, take an active tour of the city or explore state and national parks.

Making activity fun

Try to associate activity with having fun from an early age by keeping activity fun and varied – it shouldn’t feel like a chore or punishment. Even the small bit of activity that your children do throughout the day will have beneficial effects on their health.

Parents can help make physical activity fun by ensuring activities are age appropriate and safe. Older children may like trying team or individual sports, while younger children might prefer games like tag, skipping ropes or hide and seek – and parents might be surprised how much fun they can have by joining in.

  • TOP TIP: Create a travelling fun box by stashing a box in the family car that holds balls, cricket or rounders bats, skipping ropes, frisbees and kites so you’ll always be ready for fun.